5 ways to prevent dining with kids from turning into the Hunger Games
Eating out with small children can feel like you’re running a gauntlet in the Panem arena. Flying French fries narrowly missing your face, a fork stabbing you in the knee, and the judgemental eyes of fellow diners praying for your early eviction. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. While dining out with little ones might not be what you’d call an enjoyable experience until they’re old enough to entertain themselves, it can be manageable – dare we say it – even fun, if you’re well-prepared.
1. Do your research
There are a lot of sites that specialise in kid-friendly cafes where little ones can enjoy toys, a menu with food they will actually eat, and where staff that go out of their way to accommodate you. If you might need a baby changing table when you dine, then finding the right cafe is critical unless you want to lie the baby down on the bathroom floor (ew). If you’re in Sydney, check out littlemunch.com, littleeats.com.au/sydney and adventurebaby.org.
2.Book a table
If at all possible, book a table to keep waiting time to a minimum. If you can’t book, get there early. Avoiding a big wait is step one in preventing big meltdowns.
3.Time your visit well
I always found the sweet spot was just after naptime in the morning. I’d get all the baby paraphernalia ready while nap time was on, then we would dash out the door as soon as those baby blue eyes opened to maximise the happy and awake time that we had to dine together, and return home in time for the midday or afternoon nap. A rested baby is likely to be a happier one sits still longer in a cafe.
4.Order the kiddie meals first
As soon as you sit, order something for the kids. A babyccino, eggs on toast, pancakes, French fries, whatever. Then take your time deciding what you feel like knowing that the kiddie food is on its way.
This might be an iPad (no judgement), stickers, toy cars or crayons. Brings lots of little things that your child hasn’t seen for a while or ever before to keep them busy while you sip your latte.
When your meal arrives, stop talking and eat up. This is probably around the point where the kids have finished their food and are bored with the activities. Whichever parent finishes first takes the kids for a walk outside while the slower eater finishes up in blissful silence.
If your kid has dumped half their scrambled eggs on the floor and strewn the sugar packets all over the chairs, pick them up, please! This will keep you in the staff’s good graces. Pay, leave a tip if your kids were particularly obnoxious, and thank the staff for the meal on the way out the door.
There you have it! How to successfully eat out with your baby or toddler in 7 easy steps. Good luck – may the odds be ever in your favour.
Christine Knight is an Australian travel writer and blogger. When she’s not chasing her energetic five-year-old through Sydney’s inner west, you’ll find her “researching” her way through the best high teas in the city.